There is a youthful buzz at The Sydney International Rowing Centre, with many of the school-aged competitors arriving this afternoon [Wednesday] ahead of the heats for school boys and school girls starting tomorrow. The boat park is teeming with young faces from all over Australia, as they prepare to compete against each other on a national level in a bid to be crowned the best in the country in their boat class.
Amongst the 1,843 athletes competing at the 2017 Aon Sydney International Rowing Regatta, 1,278 are school-aged. The regatta is a great opportunity for young people to race on an Olympic-class venue, and provides them a feel of what it’s like to compete nationally against competitors who have come from every state across the country.
In what spectators have seen so far this week, there is certainly no shortage of talent in the school-aged competitions. There have been a number of thrilling races in the Under 17 and Under 19 events.
Notably, there have been strong performances coming from the girls involved in the rowing program at Somerville House in Queensland, with captivating wins from both Laura Chancellor and Ella Hudson in their respective heats for the Under 17 Women’s Single Scull.
Oleg Shishkin is the Director of Rowing at the school,, and he puts the Brisbane girls performances down to the atmosphere they have fostered in the shed, which focuses primarily on the girls enjoying themselves. “We measure the success of the program not by the results in racing but by the number of girls who are coming back to the program each year,” Shishkin said.
At Somerville, rowing is just one of 17 sports on offer to the girls, but the program never struggles for numbers or interest, with about 150 girls involved each year. “When you have such an atmosphere the girls enjoy being there, couple that with smart coaching, and the girls feeling like they are achieving good results, that’s what brings them back to rowing,” added Shishkin.
With 114 schools attending the regatta, there is plenty of competition out there. But it’s not just about what happens on the water this week. The regatta gives the school students the chance to meet and speak to the elite athletes of the sport, with Olympians, Paralympians and National Training Centre athletes also attending to race throughout the week.
“This (regatta) is a great representation of our sport. There’s under 16’s, 17’s, 18’s and 19’s, schoolboys, schoolgirls – it’s a great showcase of what we can do as a nation and puts Australian rowing on the world map,” said Rio Olympic silver medallist Cameron Girdlestone, who is representing New South Wales in the President’s Cup on Sunday
“It’s great to see the young athletes around the boat park… they are the next stars of our sport,” added Girdlestone.
Tonight, will also see a school BBQ held behind the Grandstand from 5pm to bring together the school rowing community.